September 17, 2014

So many great learning opportunities -- Join me!

I've got several super cool projects going on this month and next, and I want to make sure you don't miss out!

1. Bloom Your Online Relationships 30-Day Challenge

We are slightly more than halfway through, but you can join at any time, and you'll still have access to all the activities and the Facebook discussion group.

This is a challenge to focus on building relationships rather than list-building, fan-building, follower-building, and much of the stuff we spend time on when we're building online businesses.

The daily challenges are fun, thought-provoking, and creative, and I've found a few that resonated with me so much that I instantly implemented. And it's FREE!

Read about it here. My tip was posted on Monday, and it was about giving your community a gift "just because." You can read my tip here, but make sure to sign up to get all 30!

2. Outstanding Presentations Workshop

This webinar series, hosted by PowerPoint expert Ellen Finkelstein, features weekly guest speakers who will reveal their secrets and strategies on presenting and using PowerPoint effectively.

This program has already started as well, but you can sign up and get all 7 recordings, plus handouts and bonus gifts for just $17! That is a ridiculous price for all the presentation and PowerPoint expertise you're going to get!

My presentation is on September 30, on audience engagement, and this is not a presentation that you will ever see online or for this low price, as it's reserved for corporate and conference clients. Again -- $17 for all of these trainings? Don't let this opportunity get away!

Register here.

3. Interview for The Boomer Business Owner

I recently recorded a podcast interview with Charlie Poznek of The Boomer Business Owner on how public speaking can help you grow your business. Some of the points we covered include:

* The importance of audience research when creating a presentation
* Why you are the face of your brand at all times
* How to find affordable public speaking training
* Why passion trumps perfection in all great speeches
* Why you don’t need to have great speaking techniques to move your audience

There's also a special link on that page for podcast listeners for a rockin' deal on my Audience Avenger Alliance membership program, so check that out, too!

Listen here.

4. Speak to Engage: 7 Step Shortcut to Public Success is coming!

This is my most popular program that I only run once a year -- and it's coming back in October!

Save the date for this one: October 21. Registration isn't open yet, but you can visit the page and read about it here.

There will be special early bird rates when I open the program for registration in September, AND I will be offering a first-time alumni rate for clients who have taken this course before or purchased the home study program and want a refresher, so stay tuned.

Get all the updates on this program and special early bird rates by joining my mailing list.

September 4, 2014

Drowning your audience? Try these 3 lifesavers.

I'm currently participating in the Bloom Your Online Relationships Challenge, a 30-day free program to encourage relationship-building with our online communities, and today's challenge dovetails perfectly with a post I've been wanting to write. (P.S. My offering in the BYOR challenge comes up on September 15, so make sure to sign up so you can get my tip!)

Today's challenge is about "being incomplete," leaving out details so others can participate and fill in the gaps.

And recently, I've had conversations with a couple of speakers who have a really hard time with this.

The conversation usually goes something like this: "I have too much to say in X amount of time." Or, "I have trouble explaining what I do because it's so complex and detailed." Or, "People just don't get it."

And these comments come with an exasperated tone and a clear disappointment in the audience, that the audience is just too clueless to understand without lots of lecturing.

What I really want to say when I hear this is "Get over yourself!" But that wouldn't be very constructive.

Here's what I mean.

Speakers and subject matter experts often suffer from the "Curse of Knowledge," described by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick as what happens when our knowledge about a subject becomes so great that we have trouble communicating that knowledge to others. It becomes so hard for us to imagine NOT knowing what we know, that we can't fathom how others don't understand us when we share.

We speak over our audiences' heads, we give far too much detail, and we pack our presentations so full of information that our audiences leave numb and slack-jawed from the mental barrage.

And do they retain anything? Not much! Especially when all this information and detail is delivered in lecture format. Because some of us are so convinced that we need to use every minute to speak that we forget about interaction and engagement.

How can you fight the Curse of Knowledge? Don't just expect your audience to approach your topic with beginner's mind and to be open to new ideas, but approach it yourself with beginner's mind.

Even if you've given the same presentation a hundred times, next time you prepare for an engagement, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What does the audience really need, want and care about?

2. Is there enough white space for them to think about and process your ideas?

3. How can you help the audience best grasp your ideas through activities, questions, and engagement?

[What else would you add? Is one of these harder for you than the others? Please share in the comments!]

And I'm serious when I say "Get over yourself." Nobody can share everything they know about a subject in the kind of time frame we have for presenting. It's a given. It doesn't mean you're that much smarter than everyone else, or that your topic is so much more complex than your audience can ever understand.

It just means that you know a lot! Which is why you've been invited to speak. So enjoy it, and remember that your knowledge comes with responsibility.

Always remember that it's your job to make sure that you present in a way that your audience can gain value and relevant tools to make their lives and work better. If your audience doesn't get it, take a look in the mirror (or at your video, which I hope you record from time to time).

And figure out what you can do to make your topic accessible and yourself approachable to your audience by creating a presentation that doesn't drown them in information, but rather leaves them feeling curious, intrigued and wanting more.

What else can you do to fight the Curse of Knowledge in your presentations? Please share in the comments!

August 22, 2014

How many goofs are in your presentation?

I met with a client recently who will be speaking at a prestigious conference in his industry. When we started working together, I discovered that we have a similar approach to audience engagement.

He likes to make sure he has incorporated a couple of moments of humor into his presentations to shake up the audience and get them re-focused. He calls them "wake up" moments, or "goofs."

As he shared each "goof" with me, I couldn't help thinking how so many speakers are obsessed with "professionalism" or being "taken seriously." At the expense of audience engagement, I might add.

My client wants to make a particular point by Photoshopping his head onto a supermodel's body ("you can't just look at parts; you have to look at the big picture"). At another point in the presentation, he might hand out "nerd" glasses and a gold crown.

His ideas are fun and inspiring, and will certainly help make his points in a presentation that -- by the way -- is technical and could be rather boring in the wrong hands.

We're thinking about how to take a couple of illustrative stories about his students and make them cliffhangers. We're talking about using graphs as an opening quiz for the audience to get into the topic.

What "goofs" can you add to your next presentation to make your message more entertaining, more persuasive, more understandable and ultimately, more memorable? Please share in the comments!

August 12, 2014

How can I help?

I had a different post planned for today, but then Robin Williams died, and I felt that I had something more important to share. So please forgive my diversion, and I hope you'll understand.

Everyone says "Ask for help."

I shared my feelings about that yesterday. Here's what I posted on Facebook:

"It's not just about asking for help. Lots of people get help. Maybe their therapist isn't a good fit. Maybe they get tired of trying to find a good therapist. Maybe they go on meds but hate them and stop taking them. Maybe they even try different meds, but don't like the way they feel on the meds. Maybe they start feeling good on the meds and think they don't need them anymore. Maybe everyone around them does the best they can to help, but it's not enough. There's no simple answer."

I wrote a lot of that about myself, but I realized that even THAT isn't "helping." We all need more awareness about mental illness, and many of us live in denial that people around us are suffering. Even if we're not in denial, we don't know what to DO. What constitutes "help?" And how many of us keep this aspect of our lives under cover because we fear people's negative perceptions of us?

So today, I came up with something I can do to help, in my own small way, someone who might be suffering in silence.

I don't know what it's like to experience depression or suicidal ideation, so I am not going to try to talk about that.

But I do know what it feels like to experience extreme panic attacks and anxiety, to go through therapy, to go on meds, hate the meds, go off the meds because I'm feeling good, go on different meds because I'm out of control and totally losing it. No matter what the issue is, many of us go through the same routine trying to find a solution.

I know what it's like to try herbal remedies, supplements, exercise, dumping alcohol, caffeine and sugar - and having none of it work - and then feeling like I'm "not doing it right" because people clearly eradicate anxiety with these methods. Apparently.

I know what it feels like to be completely not in control of my mind and body and be almost completely nonfunctional because of it.

And I know what it's like not to tell anyone because I'm so worried about how people will see me after they "know" about me.

I wrote an e-book on my experience with panic attacks and I usually sell it on my site, but I'm going to make it free from now on. The last update was in 2012 and things have changed even since then, so it's not entirely my whole story. This is how it goes with mental health issues.

But it's one way I can help, by offering it here to those of you who have your own struggles with panic and anxiety, and maybe reading about my experience and my tools and lifestyle changes will help someone.

And please contact me if you ever want to talk.

Download Panic Sucks here.

August 7, 2014

Apologies... and I'm back!

Wow, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I haven't written anything for Speak Schmeak in SIX WEEKS.

So first, I owe my readers an apology. I know some of you have been loyal readers of this blog for years, and I hope I haven't let you down, but rather given you a nice vacation from reading about public speaking. :-)

I hit a wall a while back, where I just didn't feel like writing. Maybe there were a couple of things behind it.

1. Does anyone even care about what I write?

2. Am I helping anyone with my writing?

3. If I stopped writing, would it even matter?

And I still don't know the answer to those questions.

Besides these questions, I've been busy with program planning, clients, and another kitty with cancer.

So Speak Schmeak became a low priority for me. And honestly, after writing 1,432 posts over the last eight years, I just got a little burned out.

I'd like to get back on track. I was on a pretty good regimen of two posts per week, and then even that fell down to one.

So I want to promise you right now that I will publish at least one post a week from now on. It might be written by me, and it might be a guest post. But I'm going to get back on track.

If nothing else, writing for myself helps me think through a lot of public speaking issues. It makes me a better coach for my clients, and it puts good free content out to the world. I think it's worth it to keep writing.

Thanks to those of you who continue to read.

Here are a couple of things going on right now that you might be interested in:

Today and tomorrow: My interview on the StressFest 2014 telesummit -- Don't Freak When You Speak: 3 Tips for Avoiding Public Speaking Anxiety & Killing It Onstage. It's free, it's only 30 minutes long, and it's available for 48 hours, along with a lot of other great speakers on stress-related issues.

Thursday, August 14: Richard Oceguera will join the Audience Avenger Alliance Speaker Series with his talk "Your Client is in the Room: Networking Secrets to Increase Your Confidence & Conference ROI." This free teleseminar is designed to give several easy-to-learn networking tools that will help you gain confidence in your ability to connect, improve your level of professionalism while networking and then leverage the contacts you make after the event.

June 24, 2014

Invisibility works for superheroes -- not for speakers

How many times have you held yourself back from doing what you wanted to do because you didn't want to rock the boat? How many times have you held yourself back because "That's the way it's always been done?" How many times have you held yourself back for fear of embarrassment or being ostracized?

In high school, did you join the club the "cool kids" were in rather than the one you wanted to join that wasn't so cool?

In college, did you major in your parents' chosen subject instead of what you wanted to learn about?

We're not in high school or college any more, but we still find ourselves looking for approval from others, following others' standards and -- still -- suffering so much from the fear of being different and standing out.

You LOVE those bright red shoes in the store window, but you can't imagine what your husband would say if you bought them. Clown shoes? (Been there.)

You'd like to change your diet and cut out meat, but the manly-men you hang around with give you such a hard time whenever they spot you eating tofu, you don't think you can deal with their crap.

You know your presentations are boring the heck out of your audiences, but change is scary. Doing something different is scary. And holy moly - standing out is REALLY scary. So you keep hiding your true personality. You keep your message and your commentary on the safe side. You keep presenting the same dense PowerPoint bullets, the same crummy animation, or the same tiny unreadable font they see every day and dread sitting through.

I could go on and on. And I bet you could give me ten or a hundred examples of the times you've held yourself back in your life. All the times you didn't do something because you feared being judged and criticized more than you valued your own happiness and fulfillment.

Let me just ask you this: Whose life are you living, anyway? Are you living to please other people or is your life your own?

Maybe this seems a little dramatic, when all I'm going to ask you to do is be bold and courageous with your presentations.

But every time you stand up in front of an audience, it's a chance to change minds.

It's a chance to make an impact.
It's a chance to transform even one person's life.
It's a chance to raise money for your cause.
It's a chance to show your boss that you're a rock star.
It's a chance to show the world that you know what the hell you're talking about and that they need to hear what you have to say.

What your audience wants is to be engaged, to hear something original, to feel motivated and excited and inspired. Your stale old PowerPoint template riddled with logos and 90s clipart just won't cut it -- even if that's exactly what everyone else is presenting.

Want to fit in? Watch out: you'll fit in so well, you'll become invisible. And besides certain superheroes for whom being invisible is a distinct asset, it doesn't work for normal humans who want to get their message out to the world.

Next time you start to get that tingly, excited feeling about your presentation, when your brain starts to flow with ideas, and when you feel like you can't wait to sit down and tell your story, don't let that feeling get away. Go with it! Experiment. Play. Do it! Give the audience a great experience along with great value.

If you don't get that tingly feeling when you think about your next presentation, dig deep. Think about what you love about this topic. Why do you do the work you do? What message is really critical for your audience to hear? If you could just sit down with one person and tell them all about it, what would you say?

Some of the ways I get inspired to get out of my comfortable and conventional mindset when writing or speaking include:

1. Working out

Being out in nature, breathing in oxygen and getting the blood flowing always kickstarts my brain. When I stop trying so hard to think creatively, that's when the ideas kick in.

2. Watching entertainers

As speakers, we have a lot in common with entertainers of all kinds. Whether I'm watching TV, a movie or a concert, I'm constantly inspired by how the best entertainers are so real and comfortable in their own skin, and have their own unique style and way of communicating their message with the audience.

3. Making it about the audience

Whenever I start working on a presentation, I continually ask myself, "What is the audience going to get out of this activity, story, image, analogy, etc.?" This alone will ensure that you're not just making slides for your own benefit (to read as notes) or throwing every single detail about your topic into the presentation at the risk of drowning your audience.

When you constantly keep your audience's interests, engagement and experience at the top of your list of presentation to-dos, you will be more inclined to stay away from the clich├ęd and the expected.

Find a way to trigger your creativity and originality. Find that spark, that love of your work or topic that you used to have when you couldn't wait to jump out of bed every morning to start your day, and build your presentation around that.

Pretty soon that spark will catch fire, and you won't care who sees it. You'll find yourself on stage, not holding anything back, giving your best presentation yet!

Are you fed up with sitting in presentations that have no energy, no engagement, no love, no soul?

Presentations that are irrelevant, boring, tedious and that suck the life right out of you, like some alien parasite from outer space?

Well, you can't change another speaker, but you can change yourself.

Just like your favorite superhero, you can rescue the audience from the routine and repetitious and save the audience from the stale and stodgy.

You can liberate audiences from those dastardly presentations where speakers just don't care, where they show up like zombies in body but not in spirit, and they haven't got the faintest interest in actually serving their audience.

If you're ready to rise above the status quo and deliver bold and courageous messages, then join me for the Audience Avenger Alliance, a new membership program for speakers -- veterans and newbies -- who are looking for a new and different way to create awesome experiences for their audiences.

May 30, 2014

My favorite easy conference networking tip

Here's a simple networking tip if you, like me, dread walking into rooms full of strangers. When I'm at a conference by myself, this tip is gold. Take a look. 

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